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Plant membership seeds with preconference mailings.

Promote your biggest member benefit to boost attendance and membership.

The Pennsylvania Association of Non-Profit Homes for the Aging, Mechanicsburg, increased its annual conference attendance from 350 to 750 in the past five years. PANPHA, which has 288 member facilities, found that one of its highest-rated membership services was the annual conference.

Until 1987 the annual conference was marketed only to members and was attended mainly by administrators or chief executive officers of member facilities. At that time, the annual conference included two tracks--one for directors of nursing and one for financial managers. Additional attendance depended on the administrator passing information along to the staff.

We believed we could attract additional managers and department heads to the annual conference; the need for education was growing because of increased government regulations affecting nursing homes, personal care facilities, and continuing care retirement communities.

First, we expanded the program to include additional tracks in public relations, human resources, and personal care. We also expanded our marketing to include corresponding staff specialists.

We collected names for our data base. That way, we could produce individual labels and eliminate reliance on the administrator to route the meeting materials.

In the beginning, we prepared different registration flyers for each track and sent appropriate flyers to management staff and department heads. Attendance at the annual conference started to increase. However, we realized that staff might be interested in conference sessions in addition to the workshops in their specific track, so we began sending complete registration brochures to managers and department heads. The result was an increase in the number of participants who attended for more than one day.

Since the annual conference was a member favorite, it could also act as a recruiting tool. If we invited prospective members, we felt, they would experience the highly rated conference and networking opportunities. The mailing list for the annual conference was expanded to include prospective members.

The registration brochure, therefore, became a critical part of our marketing effort. We knew we had to produce an eye-catching brochure centered around a theme. Now, as we begin the brochure, we look for creative artists to produce original art, and we change artists to avoid having the same "look" to each year's brochure. We also budget for high-quality printing, because we believe you get what you pay for.

One year we took the "Lamp of Learning" from PANPHA's seal and adopted the theme "If You Had Three Wishes for Long-Term Care, What Would They Be?" This unusual theme and the use of brilliant purple and aqua received many compliments. Member response showed that our strategy worked. Now, members can't wait to see the annual conference brochure each year.

In addition to the brochure, we have started mailing a tickler postcard four months before the conference. The postcard introduces the conference theme, announces dates, and includes a few meeting highlights. We also use our newsletter to publicize conference speakers and activities. We mail the newsletter free to prospective members for three months before the conference. We have thought of using other techniques, such as including the conference theme and dates on association letterhead, or using special annual conference letterhead for the months before the conference.

Our motto is "Plant seeds with preconference mailings and your annual conference and membership will grow."

Theresa A. Capricci is director of membership at the Pennsylvania Association of Non-Profit Homes for the Aging, Mechanicsburg.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Capricci, Theresa A.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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